A new all-female racing series was launched yesterday, supported by former Grand Prix driver David Coulthard and top designer Adrian Newey, with the aim of helping women racers get to Formula One.
No woman has competed in Formula One since 1976, but organizers of the “W Series” hope to provide a platform for them to develop skills before taking on the men further up the motorsport ladder.
With a planned start in May next year, the series said it is to offer a prize fund of US$1.5 million and free entry for 18 to 20 competitors who would be selected on merit.
The overall winner is to collect US$500,000, with prize money down to 18th place.
Organizers said they aimed to stage six 30 minute races at top circuits in Europe, most of which were past F1 venues, with identical 1.8 liter F3 cars.
Future seasons would see the series expand to the US, Asia and Australia.
“At the heart of W Series’ DNA is the firm belief that women can compete equally with men in motorsport. However, an all-female series is essential in order to force greater female participation,” organizers said in a statement.
The idea of an all-female series is not new, but has been controversial in the past, with top women racers adamant they want to compete against the men.
Claire Williams, deputy principal of the Williams Formula One team, said that an all-female championship would be a “regressive step.”
British racer Pippa Mann, a winner in the US Indy Lights series and who has competed six times in the Indianapolis 500, declared the move “a sad day for motorsport.”
“Those with funding to help female racers are choosing to segregate them as opposed to supporting them,” she said on Twitter. “I am deeply disappointed to see such a historic step backwards take place in my lifetime.”
However, Coulthard said that women tended to reach a glass ceiling at F3 level, often due to a lack of funding, and needed help.
No woman has scored a point in F1, although Italian Lella Lombardi scored a half point in the shortened 1975 Spanish Grand Prix, and only two have started races since the championship began in 1950.
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